Spoiler: gravity wins. That’s me about 5 minutes into DCS Warthog. It happened as I was turning. Or rather, it happened as I was trying to turn, when suddenly the A-10 fell out of the sky like several tons of bricks. See, as I mentioned in the last installment, the last modern sim I played was Falcon 4.0, which is based on the F-16 fighter. The F-16 is a very nimble aircraft. You can roll it 360 degrees with a flick of your wrist. You can zoom up into the sky and do loops and other acrobatics with ease. This means my instincts for flying the Warthog are all wrong. I tried to bank the A-10 over and pull back on the stick to make a tight turn, just as I would in the Falcon and, well, turns out there’s a reason why one of these planes is named after a graceful, deadly bird of prey, and the other is named after a pig.
After the jump, my introduction to the game is followed shortly by my introduction to the ground.
My inability to turn the plane without succumbing to the seductive pull of gravity was the first of many terminal altitude deficiencies over my first hour with the game. After firing it up for the first time, I decide to eschew the training missions for the moment and jump right into the “instant action” selection from the main menu, hoping for an opportunity to fly around a bit, see how the sim looks, maybe shoot some stuff. Good clean fun.
And I start plowing into the turf like I’m magnetically attracted to it. Some of these crashes, like my attempt to turn, are learning experiences — for example, I learn that the A-10C does not naturally hold itself level. This means that if I take a few moments to look around the intricately detailed cockpit I may look back up to find the nose of the airplane has become very curious about what those green leafy things are and has decided to take a closer look. Embarassing, yes, but I tell myself I am a better pilot for the experience.
Other crashes, like the one above, are entirely the fault of my need to poke all the lovely buttons and switches, entirely ignorant of their function. The result of some of these experiements is instantly and directly fatal, such as when I accidentally turn off the engines mid-flight. The result is the picture above. Red lights in a cockpit are bad, as a general rule. Other experiements are indirectly responsible for my demise, as I stop paying attention to my flight path while I try to undo whatever bizarre mode I just activated in the on-board computers. Sadly the only real lesson to be learned from these instances was “don’t touch that”.
Some crashes, like the above screenshot, are actually not my fault! Unless you count straying into range of something called a “Shilka” as my fault. The A-10 has a reputation for being a tough bird to bring down, but I guess that doesn’t cover having your wing sawn off by anti-aircraft fire. But hey, fighting bad guys is the point, right? I just need to learn a bit more about my weapons so I can shoot them before they shoot me.
So far I’m not bothered by my apparent inability to keep a piece of very expensive military equipment intact for more than about 2 minutes. I expected a learning curve. Very few sims have ever been “pick up and play” type games, even the ones that are relatively casual-friendly. But who can resist the temptation to dive in headfirst and see how a new game handles right off the bat?
So, it’s off to consult the manual and run through the training missions. But first, a pit stop in the options page to get all my controls set up properly.